Artist Mickalene Thomas Explores Communities of Inspiration Through Photographs

by Olivia Harrison

Mickalene Thomas is known for her large-scale, multitextured, and rhinestone-encrusted paintings of domestic interiors and portraits. Much of her photograhic work acts to deconstruct and reappropriate. Her photo series grapple with and assert new definitions of beauty and inspiration. This collection of portraits and staged scenes reflect her personal artisitc inspiration. It is a collection of muses.

Tête-à-tête, an installation curated by Mickalene Thomas, explores the idea of communities of inspiration. The work in this series is from photographers that have inspired Thomas. The works are from both older generations of artists and more contemporary artists. Artists in tête-à-tête include Derrick Adams, Renée Cox, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems.

See more of Thomas’ work in the book Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs via Aperture.

MIC Muse HiresRGB 10

Mickalene Thomas, La leçon d’amour, 2008

© Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 


 Mickalene Thomas, Racquel #6, 2013/2015

© Mickalene Thomas.Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

DeanaLawson OloffsonHotel HiRes Web

Deana Lawson, Hotel Oloffson Storage Room, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2015

Courtesy the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

 Harris Gail and Peggy HiRes Web

Lyle Ashton Harris, Gail and Peggy, Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, New York, Circa Late 1980’s, 2015 

Courtesy the artist and Albert Merola Gallery, Provincetown, Massachusetts 

L R Frazier HiRes Web

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby Holding her Babies, 2002 

Courtesy the artist and Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels

Muholi Thembitshe HiRes Web

Zanele Muholi, Thembitshe, Parktown, 2014

Courtesy the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York / Stevenson Gallery, Capetown, Johannesburg

Weems Project HiRes Web

Carrie Mae Weems, Project Row Houses, 2006-present

© Carrie Mae Weems, courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Artist bio: Mickalene Thomas (born in Camden, New Jersey, 1971) earned her BFA in painting at Pratt Institute in 2000 and an MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 2002. Thomas participated in residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2000–2003, and at the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program, Giverny, France, 2011. Her work has been included in countless exhibitions worldwide, including at La Conservera, Ceutí, Spain (2009); National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2010); Hara Museum, Tokyo (2011); Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (2012); and Brooklyn Museum (2012–13). She is represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris.

Header image courtesy the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

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